Teaching my teen to clean the kitchen

Okay, so this is part of my 500 words a day commitment, as part of my new year plan to develop the writing habit. I have tried it last month with another encouraging writer, but did not manage to write every day. So here I am trying again. I love writing, I love the way it lets me solves puzzles and issues using words. I love the fact that I can use words to reach out to others and make a difference to someone, but after my initial efforts, my enthusiasm peters out and I get caught up doing some routine work and not writing.

But what the heck! Here I am, back again, working on developing my daily writing habit over the next 31 days.

So today, I am going to crib a bit about how I am just so tired of having to clean up the kitchen every night. I am a working woman, live with my two boys, my hubby and my amazing amazing in-laws who literally hold our home together. And at the end of each day, after dinner, while the boys (the big one and the two little ones) watch TV, I have to drag myself to the kitchen and clean it up! Trust me, it is quite a task, we are a large, kind of a messy family and it takes me almost 45 minutes each night just to clean up the kitchen platform and put things back into their places.

There are times when the chore really gets to me and I pull in my teenage son to pitch in, and to be fair to him, he can really get the granite on the kitchen top to shine and get everything organized. But kids being kids will do this kind of work only for a day or so, once in a while; you can’t actually get them to do it on a regular basis.

And I can’t help but wonder why this happens. I mean, look at the teens that we have growing up around us these days: they have a tremendous amount of exposure, are well read, intelligent, but it is very difficult for us to get them to contribute usefully in a family or community. Anything you ask them to do will be done with enthusiasm till it has novelty value. Beyond that, they will quietly escape the responsibility. So what is it that makes teens behave like this today?

You can look back at history and find that till about 60-70 years ago, typically by the time a young man was in his teens, he would be employed as an apprentice with some master craftsmen, or artist, or in a family trade; in the hope of learning some skill or trade that would enable him to earn a living.

What are our teenagers today doing? They are very busy putting up selfies on social media, commenting, connecting, watching videos that someone else is making… and the academically oriented ones are busy cramming for some entrance exam. Does this make them ready to take on the real world? Of course there are those who question everything and challenge the establishment at every step, and one assumes this is where the new thinking will come from. But in my personal experience, merely thinking about something is not good enough, a very important aspect of learning is applying your knowledge and execution of what you have learnt. With most of the learning being essentially theoretical, there is a distinct gap when things come to execution and application.

As the mother of a teenager, my constant effort is to get him to ‘do’ something and not merely think about what needs to be done. And learning a skill, any skill in my opinion is a very important part of one’s growth process. With ideas available everywhere, today ideas are valued lesser and lesser unless you are able to make these ideas happen. Making ideas happen needs skills: any skill, you could be a computer operator and you could make an idea happen, or you could be a fashion designer and make ideas happen. But if the only skill you have is putting stuff up on social media, you are not going to get far. For even on social media, what gets shared is unique, original content. That is what Google is looking for. So to be a success even on social media, you need the ability to create and develop content – have skill that you can put to use.

This is what stays at the top of my mind as I see my son work away, cleaning the kitchen top on the few nights that he agrees to help me out. I hope that as he does the work with his hands, he is learning a skill or two, something he may be able to apply to his daily life, at school or at play. That is what I as a parent hope to impart to my teen, as he prepares to step out into today’s highly competitive world. What are you doing as a parent to get your teen ready for the future? Please share!

~ Bharti Athray


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